There are no set rules for an opening line of a novel. Nearly anything goes—be it description, dialogue, or a statement of philosophical truth. But that flexibility does not apply to the first page of your novel. All good novels contain several essential elements that immerse the reader in the story world and keep them there, ideally to the end of the book. Here’s a breakdown of the five key components to include in the first page of your novel.
1. Your Protagonist
As our Editor-in-Chief, Josiah DeGraaf, helpfully explained last year, the novel is distinguished from other storytelling art forms by its focus on the inner lives of its characters. Principally, you will be selling your story on the personality of your main character, and it’s best to introduce him or her to the audience as soon as possible to begin building that connection.
There are two ways to handle this. The first is to start with an intriguing description of your character. Don’t say that Marcus Langley is five foot nine with sandy-brown hair and azure-blue eyes. Your readers’ imaginations can supply those details easily enough. Instead, tell readers he’s a mushroom hunter. Or an explosives expert in a special-ops unit. Those few words will fascinate readers more than entire paragraphs delineating physical details. [Read more…]